Three Wishes: Part Six
“What on Neopia?” Ellie looked around and saw Ophir staring open-mouthed at a poster pasted onto a nearby fence. Ko went up to join the striped Kau, then his jaw dropped to join hers on the ground. Finally Ellie trudged over.
“Whoa!” she said, taking a step backwards.
The bold title read Missing Pets, and below that were three pictures. Pictures of them. Ellie rubbed her eyes and gaped.
“We’re missing pets?” she asked thin air.
“Apparently.” Ophir sounded shocked and she looked it as well.
“I can’t believe it!” Ko said, but now he sounded excited. “We were only gone like two days... and isn’t that how long Frosti was going away for anyway?”
“She must have sent us a neomail,” Ellie said. “And then when we didn’t reply... she panicked.”
“Should we tell her what’s happened?” Ophir asked quietly.
“Do you think she’d believe us?” Ellie retorted. “I don’t think so.”
“Cos she’s sceptical like you,” Ko piped in.
Ellie shot him a glare, wondering where he had learned such a big word. “And thus she wouldn’t believe us,” was all she said.
“I think we should try,” Ophir said dutifully. “And we have to let know that we’re okay.”
“But what are we going to say then?” Ko asked.
“We can say that Sylkon ran back to Neopia Central and we decided to follow him,” Ellie said.
“That sounds reasonable.” Ko nodded.
“You guys are so mean to him,” Ophir said as she shook her head.
“You’re still sticking up for him?” Ellie asked incredulously.
“What he did was an accident,” the Kau replied gravely.
“But he still did it,” Ellie argued, then she huffed and strode away.
Ophir sighed and plodded after her sister. Ko followed after another moment gaping at the poster. Ellie was striding swiftly and confidently along the long stretch of road, ears pricked with excitement as she counted the numbers to her neohome... 44720... 44724... 44730. Finally, 447232.
The cloud Bori hesitated an instant, hovering with one azure paw resting on the wooden gate. Then Ophir nudged her gently forward, and she swung the gate open and stepped onto the soft grass beyond.
Everything was quiet... no, wait. Ellie pricked her ears again, angling them towards the sound. Laughter. Feminine laughter. Two sets of feminine laughter. That couldn’t be right. There shouldn’t even be two sets of laughter. She exchanged a wary look with Ophir, then glanced at Ko, who was looking bemused. The desert Lupe padded forward and said in a whisper, “Should we see what’s happening?”
For some reason Ellie whispered her reply. “I think so. But be quite. Maybe someone’s already moved in.”
But as the three siblings moved closer they recognised their owner’s voice. Ellie ducked behind a particularly forlorn rock tree and peeked through its branches.
She saw her owner shielding her eyes against the sun, lying flat out on the grass. And cuddled up next to her was a stunningly beautiful desert Aisha. Ellie heard an odd choking sound behind her and turned to see Ko trying to surface for air, waving his paw uselessly in the air. She reached out her own paw to stop it.
“Shh! What’s up?”
“That – that’s... don’t you recognise her?” Ko choked.
“No,” Ellie replied tartly as she could whilst whispering.
There was a soft “oh,” of surprise from Ophir’s direction. “I see now. Ellie, that’s—”
“Amira,” Frosti said to the Aisha. “Do you want get ready to go to the Defender’s Headquarters? See if they have any news about your siblings?”
“No,” Ellie said as she watched the duo return into the neohome.
“Yes,” Ko hissed triumphantly. “That was Princess Amira! What’s she doing here. Shouldn’t she be in the Lost Desert. And since when was she our sister?”
“Since Sylkon became the Prince of Sakhmet,” Ophir said quietly. “It seems that someone had to replace Sylkon as Frosti’s pet. But how come I don’t have any childhood memories of her?”
“I dunno. Maybe because the genie didn’t think we’d still be alive, so he didn’t bother modifying our memories,” Ellie said.
“He modified the memories of millions of pets and humans,” Ko snorted. “What’s three pets to him?”
“Does it matter?” Ophir said, her voice slightly raised in a way Ellie never usually heard. “All that matter’s is that we’re the only three beings on Neopia – besides Sylkon and the Genie – who known what really happened. So we have to fix it!”
Ko looked taken aback by the fierceness in her voice, but then he nodded vigorously.
“Here, here!” he shouted.
Ellie quickly whacked him with her paw. “Do you want the entire neighbourhood to hear you?” she hissed, dragging him out of the garden and onto the road. “I don’t even think we should tell Frosti, because I don’t think she’d believe us. Especially with Amira as our... sister.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ko muttered as he dusted himself off. Ophir looked amused. “But I have a question. How the heck are we going to get through the Haunted Woods?”
Sylkon dragged himself out of bed, his head aching with the hundreds of war tactics and battle strategies that had been thrust onto him as soon as he marched into the meeting chambers the day before. Being a monarch was harder than he had thought. Then again, this would all be a lot easier if Maleficus hadn’t interfered! Declaring war on the Haunted Woods! How could anyone be so stupid?
The first thing he groped for when his hooves touched the tiles was the lamp, and he breathed a sigh of relief as it clinked against his hoof. He forced his eyes open and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, then placed the lamp around his neck, swinging from a chain he had threaded through the day before. He wasn’t taking any chances.
There was a flurry of motion by his feet and he looked down to see Maleficus in Seti form, glaring up at him with baleful eyes.
“Glad to see you awake, Your Royal Highness,” he murmured as his shaped blurred and the desert Draik advisor stood beside him again, tall and menacing.
Sylkon brushed past, glad when the Genie hissed and coiled away in a column of smoke.
“You’re not so tough, are you?” he sniped. “Can’t even touch anything. How can you keep on pretending to be real?”
The Draik pushed his face up close to his horn. “I am very real, little Uni. Don’t you ever doubt that. And it’s only you that I can’t abide to touch.” Then he stalked off. He didn’t mention that he felt the stinging burn of the lamp when he touched the royal Uni.
Sylkon grinned, glad to have ruffled the Genie’s scales, or smoke, or whatever. He pulled on the silken rope by his head. At least the room service was good for royalty. Within ten seconds a slender desert Peophin was in the doorway, bowing low.
“You called, Royal Highness?”
“Bring me my breakfast,” Sylkon demanded haughtily and watched as the Peophin scampered off. Then he went into his private bathroom and set to making himself presentable.
When he emerged half an hour later, his breakfast was laid out on his bed. He didn’t know what half the stuff was: strange Desert delicacies, no doubt. But it smelt good, and therefore it ought to taste good. He saw Maleficus watching and grinned, holding up a sweetmeat.
“Would like something to eat, Royal Advisor?” he grinned, knowing full well that the Genie could not eat.
Maleficus scowled. Point to Sylkon.
“Suit yourself.” Sylkon shrugged and popped it into his mouth.
“You have a meeting to attend to, Royal Highness. That war you declared is taking up quite a lot of time.” Point to Maleficus, then.
Sylkon shrugged and finished off another morsel. “Delicious,” he said. He wiped his hooves clean and led the way out of the room. Maleficus followed, his eyes fixed greedily on the lamp.
Sylkon had declared the afternoon snack after an argument had broken out about which weapons the Haunted Woods was most likely to use. His head couldn’t take all the words being thrown around.
He stood leaning against a balcony, glad that the castle staff had enough sense to keep well back. It make breathing a little easier. He shivered as a sudden gust of wind blew the fine hangings half shut behind him. Another gust closed them completely. Then they parted as a certain desert Draik forced his way through.
“Private place, isn’t it, up here?” the Genie commented and leaned against the rail beside him. “No one to see you. They could probably hear you if they weren’t all gathered at the other end of the Palace. Apparently you’re going to make a big announcement in half an hour.”
“What...?” Sylkon began, then his eyes narrowed. “What are you playing at now.”
Maleficus ignored him. “Such a pity that it won’t be the real Prince giving that announcement.”
Sylkon lowered his head in a defensive position. “You can’t do anything to me,” he growled.
“I think that in a few moments you’ll realise I can,” Maleficus replied smoothly. “I believe that if you had read your little book properly – chapter twelve I think comes to mind – then you wouldn’t have been so foolish.”
Sylkon frowned as he suddenly found himself clutching the book on Genies in his hoof.
“No time to read it now, I’m afraid. Urgent matters to attend to.” Even as he spoke the Genie’s form was changing, melting into smoke, then reforming as a royal Uni, a mirror image to Sylkon. “After all, being a Prince is hard work.”
There was a tug at Sylkon’s neck, and the chain holding that lamp broke loose and flew towards Maleficus, skidding through his foreleg then resting at his hind hoof. The leg dissolved into smoke with an angry hiss, then reformed again, and Maleficus’s brow screwed up with pain. Sylkon started after it, but an invisible wall held him back.
“Not so cocky now, are we, little Uni?” He spat, teeth gritted in pain. “I suggest you read that book. Or maybe you won’t, if I know where I’m sending you.” He flashed a grin, then his eyes narrowed and he flicked his tail.
Sylkon felt a burst of pain delve into his head, driving towards unconsciousness. He reached out with his free hoof, trying to use his new magic against the Genie, but it wouldn’t come to him. It dropped to his side as he was whisked away.
To be continued...